Canadian Public Relations Society statement on public relations ethics, in light of Jian Ghomeshi coverage
As recent reports surrounding former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi continue to evolve, some news outlets have expressed concerns about the perceived role that public relations may have played.
As the Ghomeshi story unfolds, several news outlets and social media posts have recently portrayed public relations counsel as an interference that does disservice to the public interest. References to terms such as "PR exercise" and "spin" have been used, reinforcing a long outdated stereotype.
As the industry association representing public relations practitioners in Canada, the Canadian Public Relations Society adheres to the premise that everyone deserves public relations and communications counsel.
Regardless of the client, we aim to help them find a voice, gain visibility, build trust, strengthen relationships, and safeguard their reputation. Crucially, we pursue these goals with the firm belief that PR must always benefit and protect the public interest.
Within that context, members of the Canadian Public Relations Society adhere to the CPRS Code of Professional Standards, our Code of Ethics. This Code states among its clauses that:
- A member shall deal fairly and honestly with the communications media and the public.
- A member shall practice the highest standards of honesty, accuracy, integrity and truth, and shall not knowingly disseminate false or misleading information.
Like other professions – journalism, medicine and law, for instance – public relations is fraught with ethical dilemmas. This is evident when our role as outspoken advocate seems at odds with our role as organizational conscience. We maintain the delicate balance between client needs and the collective good by working in unison with other professional counsel, the media, and the public, all of whom benefit from open, honest, multi-directional communication.
The responsibility for respectful communication is shared. Public relations professionals must always practise ethically. To facilitate this, clients need to be as forthcoming and honest with their communications counsel as they would be with their lawyer, accountant, or physician. Finally, the public, including all media, should endeavor to take a measured, informed stance on the issues…a challenge, considering the speed at which technology allows the dissemination of ever-more vocal, skeptical and even hurtful opinions, judgments, and misinformation.
Ultimately, public relations work must adhere to codes of conduct and be carried out in an ethical manner. As practitioners, we hold ourselves accountable in a number of ways – CPRS membership chief among them – and we encourage open, respectful dialogue that helps us evolve further as trusted advisors, especially during difficult times.